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Trade Routes: Courtesy is Not Obsolete

By: Michael Wynne
Posted: February 11, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“Yes,” answered the Frenchman. “And so is the air in the tires of your motor vehicle, but it makes the ride so much smoother!”
In global business, courtesy definitely makes the ride smoother.

Today, business people are traveling to new, exciting and sometimes even strange places with very different approaches to business. As the president of a major U.S. company recently said, “Today, we’re doing business in places that before we only read about in National Geographic.”

As you travel and conduct business in other countries with people from other nations and cultures, you experience cultures, values and customs that are very different from your own. It pays to do a little homework about the right ways to approach them. Business protocol varies. In some places, it is customary to show up with a small gift; in others, people bow to one another; in yet others, they may hug or even exchange a kiss.

While business protocol is not usually quite as formal as a typical dictionary definition of the word “protocol” might lead one to believe, it is important to realize that people everywhere have their preferred ways of doing things. That does not mean you have to bow, hug or kiss to conduct business; you should, however, be aware of local DOs and DON’Ts.

One of the first things to remember, even though modern communication technologies have made connecting across distances much easier, is that there is still no substitute for personal contact when it comes to building business relationships. This is especially true of those cultures where relationships come before business—which, happens to be most of the world.
Business is about relationships. Care, consideration and courtesy are the building blocks of relationships. The following are some helpful tactics for demonstrating these attributes while building face-to-face relationships: